Spacewalk 1

NASA astronaut Christina Koch has left her footprint in history after breaking an iconic space record for womankind.

After returning to Earth earlier this morning, she officially achieved the Guinness World Records title for the longest spacewalk by a woman at a total of 328 days, between the dates of 14 March 2019 and 6 February 2020.

One of the most remarkable parts of her story is that Christina accomplished this astronomical feat on her first-ever spaceflight.

Seven years ago, she was accepted as part of NASA Astronaut Group 21, having previously studied electrical engineering and worked at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the United States Antarctic Program (overwintering in Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station), and at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (helping design and build the Juno probe).

After completing her training, and Koch was placed on NASA's active astronaut roster for possible flights to the International Space Station, in 2015.

Koch left Earth in the Soyuz MS-12 capsule alongside veteran cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin and fellow NASA astronaut Nick Hague.

The rocket launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 19:14 (UTC) and docked with the International Space Station at 01:01 (UTC) the following day (5 hours and 53 minutes later).

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Koch launched to the ISS near the beginning of an intensive period of station upgrades and maintenance spacewalks.

She made her first spacewalk alongside Nick Hague just 10 days after her arrival at the station, and in October she took part in three back-to-back spacewalks in just 12 days, ending with the first all-female spacewalk (with fellow NASA astronaut Jessica Meir) on 18 October 2019.

In total, Koch made six spacewalks during her time on the station, taking her from an unflown astronaut to the third-most experienced female spacewalker of all time (after Peggy Whitson, with 10 career spacewalks, and Sunita Williams, with seven).

She was originally supposed to return on 3 October 2019, but crew-assignment changes related to delays with NASA's Commercial Crew Program meant that her stay was extended to February 2020.

Her 328-day stay surpassed the record of 288 days set by Peggy Whitson between 2016 and 2017.

She departed the ISS at 05:50 (UTC) on 6 February 2020 alongside cosmonaut Aleksandr Skvortsov and ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano (who both arrived on the ISS in July 2019). The Soyuz MS-13 capsule touched down on the Kazakh steppe at around 09:12 (UTC).

To date, the longest single spaceflight overall was by Russian doctor Valeriy Poliyakov (b. 27 April 1942), who was launched to the Mir space station aboard Soyuz TM18 on 8 January 1994 and landed in Soyuz TM20 on 22 March 1995 – a total duration of 437 days 17 hours 58 minutes.

While Koch has no immediate plans to venture back to space just yet, we look forward to seeing the progress she makes for women in science.

Image Credit: NASA